A few weeks ago, Gary asked me to obtain some "academic" literature on new PR tactics.  I was able to find some interesting articles through my university library that were both relevant and informative.

While these articles were helpful, Gary was disheartened to realize that he couldn't really do anything with them.  Wanting to share these great articles and studies with some of our clients and colleagues, it was frustrating to not be able to link to these articles directly on the Web.

Currently, academia is a super-protected industry, with scholarly journals requiring prohibitively expensive membership/subscription fees, and with articles hidden behind registration walls, firewalls, library access permission, and other types of blockades.

What's the point of having all this great information if it can't be shared?

This got me thinking.  What if there was an iTunes-esque program for academic journals?  I mean, let's face it. The number of people who are actually willing to pay $25 (or more! the Journal of Public Policy Research charges $39 per article, for example) per article for information on academic journals have to be few and far between.  If I had to guess, the primary audience for these journals is college libraries, who pay tens (maybe even hundreds) of thousands of dollars every year to offer their students access to scholarly databases.  It seems logical to me that these journals would want to extend their audience beyond this university-centric world to include the business world.

A great way to do this would be to create a system where users could pay just a small fee for these articles.  I am envisioning an iTunes-like system where each article would be just a few dollars.  Users could scan through content much like they can on iTunes, reading an abstract and maybe the first page of the article before they actually decide to make a purchase.  I bet academic journals could make a killing with such a system.

Or, an even crazier idea, what if there was an eBay-esque system for academic journals? Users could bid on articles for access, with more popular articles theoretically drawing higher bids.  In using this sort of system, journal publishers might still make their $25 per article for popular topics, and would probably sell a few articles that they wouldn't normally sell.

Maybe after we get one of these going, there could even be a Digg site for these articles.  Imagine how much new and quality content everyday people would have access to if this happened.

It just seems ridiculous to me that all this great research and discussion is going on outside of everyday business.  I have experienced frustration myself while conducting research here at TBG for our various studies.  There were a bunch of scholarly articles I would have incorporated to our studies if I had access to a few academic journals.  I was not willing to pay $25 for the content I wanted to include, but I might have paid a few dollars if I had the chance to make that decision.

I think that expanding access to scholarly/academic content to take advantage of new technologies is a great idea, and I'm surprised that no publications (that I know of) have tried this yet.  Isn't it the goal of any publication to create the biggest audience possible?  By keeping journal content behind various registration/pay walls, academic journals are just denying themselves more customers.  Expanding access to these publications is a win-win situation: journals get more customers, and everyday people get smarter and become better informed.

This one's a no-brainer to me. What do you think?